As states slowly begin to open, local businesses are still faced with many obstacles to overcome. After being closed due to shelter in place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are scrambling to get back into the good graces of shoppers with real questions at the back of their minds:
Will my customers come back? How do I sell my inventory when customers aren’t coming to my business?
How do I recover from this?
Needless to say, it can be a nerve-wracking time for any business owner worried about what the future has in store for them, and while not every business has the ability to open to full capacity and operation today, they now have a glimmer of hope in how to sell their product, and this very familiar hope is someplace where consumers spend a lot of their time: Facebook and Instagram.
Digital relief is on the way, courtesy of the biggest of the social media giants. Facebook is launching a new eCommerce service called Facebook Shops that will help turn local business profiles into digital storefronts. You will finally be able to get your products in front of consumers even if you haven’t had the chance to open your store yet, and today, we are going to tell you how.
But First, A Little Context to Facebook’s Decision
Facebook, along with the Small Business Roundtable, recently reported that a third of small businesses across the country have stopped operating altogether, signifying how the pandemic has been especially hard for small companies. The survey also reported that an additional 11 percent of those surveyed expressed that their business could go under within the next three months if the pandemic continues.
Despite this terrible news, the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders have resulted in record sales for eCommerce companies, prompting many companies to make the move to become digital entities. As more and more consumers shift to buy products and services online, it would be imperative that your company also follow suit if it hasn’t done so already.
Facebook understands this and believes that helping local small businesses remain relevant online will help them stay afloat. There are currently more than 160 million small businesses using the company’s apps, and if you’re not utilizing Facebook as a way to sell your products, you’re missing out on many potential sales.
Introducing Facebook Shops
The Facebook Shops tool is designed to help small businesses set up shop on the site and sell products across their apps, even Instagram. On Facebook, if a customer visits your shop, they will be able to see your business story, your featured products, and buy those products in their apps.
Facebook Shops will team up with big-name eCommerce entities like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, and Feedonomics, with the objective to turn the new platform into a top-tier shopping destination that provides a welcomed relief to business owners that suffer from the concerns that current small businesses are now facing during the pandemic: low sales and few customers.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that they decided to do this as a means to help small businesses stay relevant amidst so much turmoil because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As people are being told to stay home, physical storefronts are having a hard time staying open and millions of people are losing their jobs,” Zuckerberg said. “I’ve been personally working with our teams on Facebook Shops every day for the last couple of months so we could accelerate launching it to small businesses who could use tools like this now.”
With Facebook and Instagram expanding their eCommerce services, this platform will be a godsend to small businesses that are aiming to rebuild as the pandemic continues to shape the way we live our lives. By opting in to this free service, even if stores or restaurants have yet to open up completely, customers will still be able to order products online where they can later be shipped, and many small businesses that have never moved their product online will have easy access to do so for the first time.
So just how exactly does it work?
Facebook Shops will have an organic theme built for speed, utilizing an available network of tools that manage the customers’ shopping experience from beginning to end while empowering business owners to decide what level of integration they choose.
“On top of that, we’re building a bunch of features across our apps to help people discover things from small businesses that they might want to buy,” Zuckerberg stated. “We’re building a dedicated shopping tab on Instagram and a destination inside Explore where you can find and buy products you might be interested in. Soon, we’ll also be launching new live shopping features across Facebook and Instagram, which will allow you to shop on live in real-time.”
Looking Into the Future
While Facebook Shops will use artificial intelligence to improve consumers’ experience, eventually augmented reality technology will enhance how users will shop on the platform. In addition, Facebook will automatically identify and tag products in feeds so people can easily click through to purchase when they find things they like.
“Small businesses will also be able to personalize their storefronts to first show products that are most relevant to you and use augmented reality to let you virtually try on things like sunglasses, lipstick or makeup to see how they might look on you before buying, or what furniture might look like in your room,” Zuckerberg said in his post.
Couple this daring move with Google offering free product listings in search results as a digital commerce lifeline for both merchants and consumers and you’ve got something that shows a trend in how big tech companies will be stepping up to help small businesses stay relevant. Now, two of the biggest and most recognizable brands in the world are connecting your website and products online to help you reach consumers.
What does this all mean? In the big picture, both Facebook and Google are realizing that more customers will continue to not only spend more time online but also do more shopping there as well.
If harnessed correctly, your small business will have effective tools to help you serve your customers moving forward while attracting new customers as well. If you haven’t done so already, you can start building your online presence across Facebook and Instagram and use their Messenger and WhatsApp tools to communicate with your customers regarding specific business changes due to the pandemic or any particular sales that may be available.
Using Google in conjunction will only enhance what you’re doing on the Facebook end. You’ll now have the ability to reach new customers through ads on social media and best of all, set up an online store experience even if your physical storefront is still closed. These tools are currently open for business and will help you position your company as more and more customers get used to the notion of shopping online.
This graph created by SEMrush details several retailers’ traffic spikes during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak. Source: semrush.com
Opting Into the Service
Facebook Shops can be accessed on the business side of your Facebook and Instagram profiles. Signing up for the service is simple and quick, and it allows you to capture the essence of your brand, down to the color optimization, cover image, and what products you want to feature.
What is important, however, is that you have a Facebook and/or Instagram account for your business in place, as customers can access your shop via your business page or profile. Customers can also find you via your Facebook Stories and any ads that you may be running as well.
Once your page is all optimized as you see fit, customers can peruse through your entire selection, choose what they want to purchase or save it for later, and order it straight from the Facebook or Instagram Shops page–if your business has enabled checkout in the United States–or be routed to your website to make a purchase there.
If your customer has a certain question regarding one of your wares, they can use Facebook Shops to reach you via WhatsApp, Messenger, or Instagram Direct for support. Later on, a customer can use these services to make a purchase directly from you.
Make the Most Out of These Uncertain Times
Nothing is more important nowadays than helping out your fellow neighbor, and at Cobalt Digital Marketing, all we want is to just pay it forward to a community that has helped us become the marketing agency that we are today.
When times are hard, good deeds don’t go by unnoticed, and the fact that these tech giants are using their power and resources to help give small businesses a chance at surviving through these unprecedented times is something that we are grateful for.
However, staying up to date with SEO and Google ranking can be a full-time job on its own, so aligning yourself with a digital marketing company that has proven knowledge in converting leads into sales could help take this burden off of your shoulders.
The Cobalt Formulaᵀᴹ can help maximize your business’ online presence via Facebook, Instagram, Google’s SERP, and Google My Business.